January 20, 2013

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Word!

Learn it, love it, live it!

#2—The Meat of the Word

 

Opening:

    Word!  Learn it, love it, live it!

    This is week two of our series on the Word of God and what it can do in our lives.  Each week we’re memorizing a verse, so here’s this week’s verse:

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

I have hidden your word in my heart.  That is something we do with God’s word.  We are going to look at 7 things we do with God’s word, and each one takes us deeper, helps us grow more.  

Greeting:

    What do you think it means to hide God’s word in your heart?

Worship and communion

 

Introduction and offering

    Word!

    Last week we talked about the power of the Word: what happens when you receive God’s Word and it goes to work inside you.  It’s powerful and you grow and change.  

 

This week we’re going to talk about 7 ways to do that.  This is “the meat of the Word: how to go deeper in God’s Word.”  The Bible uses the metaphor of going from milk to solid food.  (The King James translates it “meat”; the better translation is “solid food”, especially if you are a vegan, like my wife and avoid meat.)

Hebrews 5:11–14 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

This is a metaphor we all understand: infants start on milk and graduate to solid food.  It’s really fun when your child finally starts taking solid food—they don’t eat it, they rub it on! An infant needs milk; we expect a baby to be on the bottle, but it’s disturbing to see this: a grown-up still on the bottle!  This guy is 30, still lives with his mom, wears diapers, sleeps in a crib, and drinks from a baby bottle. He has a condition known as paraphilic infantilism. One look and you know something is wrong.

Many Christians have this same condition–spiritually.  Many of us stay in perpetual babyhood; we need milk; we can’t handle solid food.  It’s time to grow up, and as we saw last Sunday, one of the ways we grow up is by feeding on God’s word.  

Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.

Eating something involves a series of processes: tasting, chewing, swallowing, digesting, absorbing, and using nutrients to build, repair or energize.  I’m going to give you seven processes in eating God’s Word, and examples of each from the Bible.  Each of these builds upon the ones before it, and takes you deeper.

The Big Idea: There are seven ways to go deeper in the Word, from the milk to the meat.

Here are 7 ways to go deeper with God in the Word.

 

1. Hear the Word.

The first thing most people do is to hear God’s Word.  For centuries, people didn’t have Bibles to read, so they heard God’s Word read at church or heard it quoted in conversations or sung.  In fact, there are many more references in the Bible to hearing the Word than reading the Word because that was the main way people received it then.  This is why Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

One of the primary things done in the early Christian church meetings was public reading of Scripture.  The primary way then people received God’s Word was by hearing it.  But hearing it is enough to bring us to faith.

Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

This is still the way most people initially receive the Word and come to faith: they hear it.  Someone reads it or tells it to them.

Today, we can hear the Word read and explained in church, just as our ancestors did—and that’s a good start.  But we also have the added advantage of hearing it read through CD’s or MP3’s or online.  

 

  • You can use products like The Word of Promise, which you can buy as CD’s or as an MP3.  

  • You can use online Bibles such as YouVersion, which allow you read or listen to the Bible.

I know people whose preferred way of reading the Bible is to hear it, and they listen to their daily Bible reading on the way to work.  Other people like to listen and follow along in their Bible.  

    Hearing the Word is where most of us start.  But if you stop there, you’re stuck in the milk.  There’s more…

 

2. Read the Word.

Many of us are visual learners and are used to learning by reading.  There are some advantages to reading over hearing, such as being able to underline, make notes, and easily revisit the text.

As I said, many people in Bible times either couldn’t read or didn’t have access to written copies of Scripture.  So most of the verses about reading the Word are in a corporate setting where God’s Word is being read out loud to a group, such as:

Exodus 24:7 Then Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

However, there are some examples of individuals reading the Word, and an expectation that if you had the Scriptures, you should read them.  

Deuteronomy 17:18–20 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left.

The king of Israel was expected to have his own hand-written copy of the Scripture that he read every day!

Jesus expected those who had the Scriptures to read them.  In each of the verses listed in Matthew, Jesus asks people, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures…” and then quotes the Bible.  In each of these instances, Jesus was responding to questions or criticisms from the Pharisees, who had access to the written Scriptures. Since they had the Scriptures to read, Jesus expected them to read it!

    Unlike millions of Christians before us, and millions around the world today, we can read and we have Bibles—lots of Bibles! What if we go down in history as the Christians with the most Bibles but we didn’t read them?  I wonder how often Jesus would ask us, “Haven’t you read?”

    I recommend that you read the Bible through every year.  It sounds daunting, but it takes about 15 minutes a day to read it or listen to it.  Our Bible reading plan will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. If you stick with it, it will stick with you—you’ll start to know it.  Why read it more than once?  So you can learn it, love it and live it! Read the Word!  But we’re still in the milk.  Time for a little solid food.

 

3. Study the Word.

Now we start going deeper.  When we study, we dig into what we have read.  We start asking questions about the text; we look up the meanings of words; we compare what we read to other Scriptures; we may look up what others think about it in a commentary.  Study is digging deeper to really understand what is being said.

    Ezra was a priest in the mid-fifth century BC who returned to Jerusalem to help with the rebuilding after the Exile.  His primary purpose was to teach people God’s word.

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Notice the progression of the verbs: he studied, he observed (obeyed) and he taught.  Ezra was part of a long and proud Jewish tradition of studying the Scriptures; this tradition was very much alive in Jesus’ day.

John 5:39–40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Scholars are divided whether the word “study” is imperative (a command: “study the Scripture”) or indicative (a statement: “you study the Scripture”).  The NIV takes it as a statement; other translations treat it as a command. If it is imperative, Jesus commanded them to study the Scripture to possess eternal life. Either way, Jesus says a remarkable thing: “the Scriptures testify about me.” Jesus is claiming that the Scriptures point to Him, that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.  The Old Testament is to be read through a Jesus-lens.  The early Christians saw Jesus all over in the OT Scriptures.  So a careful study of Scripture will lead us to Jesus and through Him to eternal life.

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

When the apostle Paul preached in Berea (a city in what is now modern Greece), the Jews there had this commendable response.  Rather than stoning him, beating him or driving him out of town, they studied the Scriptures to see if what he was saying was true.  

    There is a Berean Bible Church in Spokane Valley; if you ever wondered where they got their name, it’s right here.  There are lots of churches named after this noble group of folks who “examined the Scriptures every day”.  

    Study the Word! You can study the Bible alone, or in groups.  Many of our Life Groups do Bible studies; they read and dig into a passage of Scripture.

    If you want to study the Bible personally, it starts with asking questions and pondering, thinking about what you’ve read.  Then get some help. I recommend the following basic tools.   (We’ve posted this online: lifecenter.net/biblestudy.)

 

  • A study Bible: ESV Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible.

  • A Bible dictionary: Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, New Bible Dictionary.

  • A concordance: Strong’s (although it is much faster electronically).

  • A Bible commentary: Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Bible Commentary.

If you want to read and study on your device (phone, tablet or computer), check out:

 

  • Olive Tree

  • Pocket Sword

And there are lots of Bible study tools available online for free.

 

  • Biblestudytools.com

  • Blueletterbible.org

  • Ntslibrary.com

There is a more complete list on our website: lifecenter.net/biblestudy. When you make the leap from reading to study, the Bible will come alive in some new ways!  It’s fun to dig a little!  Learn it, love it, live it!

 

4. Memorize the Word.

The word “memorize” is not in the Bible.  But the idea is.  

Deuteronomy 11:18–20 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Fix God’s words in your hearts and minds: memorize them.  And what follows are some mnemonic (memory) devices: tie them as symbols on your hands and forehead; teach them, talk about them; write them in places you’re sure to see.

It was very common for Jewish people to memorize Scripture; in fact, some of them memorized it all!  In Jesus’ day, Jewish boys memorized the Torah (the first 5 books of the OT) by the time they were 10 or 12.  The best students memorized the whole OT by the time they were 13!  Remember that they didn’t have books; if they wanted to know the Scripture, they had to memorize it.  So they hid God’s word in their hearts.

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

This was also true of Christians for centuries.  The only Bible most people owned was the one they had memorized.  

ILL: Jared Roth is my brother-in-law.  A couple years ago, his father, Jake, died.  Jake spent over 40 years working in a lumber mill in Oregon.  It was hard physical labor, and very repetitious and boring.  Jared once asked his dad how he could do such a monotonous job for so long.  Jake thought, and then said, “Well, I memorized the New Testament.”  He spent those long hours memorizing the whole New Testament—and it showed.  Jake was one of the wisest and most godly men I know.   

You may not memorize the whole Bible or even the New Testament, but every verse you memorize will go to work inside you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.  Let God’s word be at home in you, live in you—richly, abundantly, lots!

    Notice the emphasis on singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  This is one powerful way to memorize Scripture: sing it!  For centuries, the church sang Scripture; it helped them memorize it.  In the early years of the Jesus’ movement in the 1970’s, most of the songs we sang were Scripture.  Forty years later, I read Scripture and often burst into song!  Those Scriptures are burnt into my memory as songs.

The secret to memorization is repetition.  Say it over and over.  I said last week that I like to recite my memory verse while driving.  Repetition.  Memory is a muscle that gets stronger with use.  The more you memorize, the easier it gets.  Repetition.  

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Let’s go deeper:

 

5. Meditate on the Word.

When you hear the word, “meditate”, what do you think?  Most of us imagine someone sitting in lotus position and emptying his mind of all thought.  That’s not what the Bible means.  Biblical meditation is more like this: like a cow chewing its cud. The cow eats grass and swallows it, but later regurgitates it and chews on it and gets all the nourishment out of it.  That’s meditation.  We chew on the word and get all that nourishment!  We’re not emptying our mind, but filling it with God’s thoughts.  

The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for meditation is a low sound, like the moan of a dove or the growl of a lion over its prey.  It means, “to mutter”.  Meditation is musing, thinking, pondering on something so deeply that you are muttering, talking to yourself.  

    I do this all the time.  Laina will hear me muttering to myself because I’m so deep in thought about something.  (If it’s the bills, it’s a different kind of muttering!)

    The Bible attaches great promises to meditating on God’s word.

Joshua 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Don’t let God’s word depart from your mouth—meditate on it day and night.  Think deeply and mutter!  This will allow you to obey it, and will make you prosperous and successful.  How many of you would like to be prosperous and successful?  Meditate on God’s word and do what it says!

Psalm 1:1–3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

There it is again: meditate day and night.  If you have memorized Scripture, you can meditate anytime, anywhere.  Just start thinking about it, mulling over each word and idea, chewing on it. And the promise?  You’ll be like a tree planted by water.  You’ll stay fresh and green and fruitful, and whatever you do will prosper!  

Psalm 119:97–100 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.

One more time: meditate all day long.  If you have God’s word in your heart, you can think about it anytime.  Chew on it.  And it will make you wiser than your enemies, give you more understanding than your teachers and the elders.  In other words, you’re going to be very wise—thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    Hear, read, study, memorize, meditate.  This is the hand illustration.  I was taught that these are the five things you do with the Word.  But as I did them, I realized that two are missing, and those two are the real meat of the Word.

 

6. Obey the Word.

    You really don’t get to the meat of the Word until you do it.  Put it into practice.  Obey it.  The reason for hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating is so you can do it!  

Joshua 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.

If you do the first five and don’t do it, it’s all for naught.  Noel used to tell me that it’s better to know one verse of the Bible and do it than to know it all and not do it.  Jesus put it this way:

Matthew 7:24–27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Hearing the word without putting it into practice is like building your house on sand.  You think you’re fine because you know so much, but that knowledge is useless if you don’t put it into practice.  Some of us, myself included, know far more than we do.  

James 1:22–25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Don’t just be a hearer of the word; be a doer of the word.  It’s in the doing that you’ll be blessed!  

    This is the real meat of the Word.  If you want to go deep, start with one verse and do it!  Then another, and another.  

    One more…

 

7. Share the Word.

I started by saying that eating is a process: taste, chew, swallow, digest, and then use.  It’s also true with God’s word.  You’ve got to take it in, chew on it, digest it and let it become part of you.  Then you use it—put it into practice.  And then you’re ready to teach it, because you’re teaching it from the center of your life.  You’re teaching what you live.  If you try to teach before you digest it and live it, it’s like chewing your food and spitting it on people!  People don’t want to be spit on!  But if you’re teaching what you’ve learned by hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating and doing, then people can receive it.

I think you know that if you really want to learn something, teach it.  Whenever you learn something, pass it on to someone else.  If you do, you’ll benefit them and cement what you have learned in your own life.  

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

I would love to create a “pass it on” culture here at Life Center.  I’d love each week for you to take what you hear on Sunday, study it, chew on it, and do it—and then pass it on to someone else.  “Let me tell you what I learned today, and what I’m going to do about it.”  Talk about it with your kids.  Tell a friend or classmate or co-worker what you learned and how you’re putting it into practice.  You can do it with the sermon; you can do it with your daily PBJ time.  It’s why I post most of my journal entries on Facebook or my blog—I’m passing it on.  But if each of us passed on what we learned from the Word with just one or two people a week, we’d spread the Word all over Spokane and beyond!  

    God could use you in remarkable ways by just doing this one simple thing.  Go deep in God’s word, let it shape your life, and then share what you learn.  Pass it on.  

    Let’s say them together: Hear, read, study, memorize, meditate, obey, share.  Put a check by the ones you are going to start doing.  Just to be clear: I don’t do them all every day, but I do them all.  Every minute you invest in God’s Word will grow you closer to Jesus, make you more like Him, transform your life and your relationships, and make you a blessing to the world.